Black Belts Start Young and Dumb
Exposing yourself to as much training as I had, or 'the school of hard knocks' as some of the black belts would call it, gets you inured to the pain that's part of the intimidation students feel when they start sparring. Putting on my uniform, I felt like I was donning body armour ala Batman. Yeah, as you can see, I was feeling pretty good about myself, lucky to be in a semi-contact environment, and getting quietly cocky about the skills I was acquiring.
I was at the stage where sparring against opponents was less about stringing together strikes and blocks than about mental strategy. Part psychologist, part accountant, I was playing a mental game against my opponents. It was a kind of interactive 'Art of War' where time seemed to slow down and when you easily slipped into 'the zone' because you were able to slough away all extraneous thoughts.
What I loved were explosive attacks that were able to beat an opponent's coverage or defenses. I'd also love feinting and landing unbelievable strikes - those coming from impossible unexpected angles. Of course, I took great pride in my improving coverage - just because I started out with little skills in that department.
What gave me a real buzz however, were that the rules of engagement allowed many things other schools at that time wouldn't promote. Controlled strikes to the knee and groin for instance were staples in our arsenal. Hair grabs, throws, and take downs were commonplace. The only rule? You can hurt, but you can't injure. Opponents were expected to walk out of our dojo on their own two feet - adjusting their groin protectors on the way out.
It was all great fun ...
... and while such rules allowed our black belts to gain an impressive array of skills beyond the usual kick-punch combinations other schools might gravitate towards, it also meant that visiting opponents from other systems had to play catch up with our more bawdy tactics.
What I couldn't understand, and what nagged at me time and time again was something my instructor, a man that I highly respected, commented on what we were doing. He said, "sparring only makes you good at sparring." Additionally, in formal classes we'd spend an inordinate amount of time practicing kata. What would then really confound me was the fact that other black belts who got it, who knew what he was saying and were spending time working out at kata, were good all round martial artists - technically proficient with their kata and great at fighting. I just couldn't understand that.
But of course my instructor was right, and my obsession with my growing skills, of what I thought was one of the most important things I had to develop at that point in time, was only a small part of the large bag of skills every martial artist should be working on all the time. Many years later, I decided that growing such meagre abilities in that arena was somewhat of a distraction, and I actually benefited from returning 'back-to-basics' (another unfortunate concept my instructor kept nagging about which I then blatantly ignored), and think about things such as strategy, the place basic techniques had in my arsenal of weapons, power generation methods, and also perhaps exactly why I was practicing a martial art at all.
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Traditional Taekwondo Techniques, Patterns, and Applications at the Traditional Taekwondo Blog. [Subscribe using email or RSS feeds] [Tkd Sitemap]. Colin is a martial art instructor with 28 years of experience across three continents. Colin leads a small Traditional Taekwondo group for adults in Perth, Western Australia.
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